Archaeologists Believe They Have Discovered an Israelite Temple Contemporaneous with Solomon’s

February 5, 2020 | Amanda Borschel-Dan
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In 2012, an excavation at Tel Motza, located just four miles northwest of the center of ancient Jerusalem, revealed a structure resembling the First Temple. Archaeologists, having completed a thorough examination of site last year, surmise it was in active use as an auxiliary place of worship from the 10th through the 6th centuries BCE, corresponding approximately to the time the First Temple stood. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:

[The structure] would have been about two-thirds the size of the First Temple and was likely built by similar builders who came to the region from Syria [or Lebanon], as described in the Bible. . . . Due to Motza’s proximity to the First Temple in Jerusalem, the excavation’s principal researchers, Shua Kisilevitz and Oded Lipschits of Tel Aviv University, hypothesize that this separate cultic site would have been approved by the administration of the Jerusalem “main branch.”

“You could not have built a major monumental temple so close to Jerusalem without it being sanctioned by the ruling polity,” said Kisilevitz.

Among the other remains of worship activity, [besides a stone altar], are a stone-built offering table, and “a whole lot of artifacts,” including figurines, cult stands, and chalices, which would have both been brought by the penitents and been the “furniture” of the temple. Another telling clue is a nearby refuse pit, where the team discovered bone and pottery remains. Kisilevitz explained that it was used in a similar way that Jews today use a genizah for sacred texts.

Kisilevitz noted that the Bible records two religious reforms enacted [respectively] by King Hezekiah and [his great-grandson] King Josiah, and said wryly that the fact that there were two is very telling about the widespread cultic practices that were being forbidden. According to the biblical account, the kings consolidated worship practices at the Jerusalem temple and eliminated cultic activity beyond its boundaries.

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